Xander had a lot of routines. Considering that his life was rather hectic, living on the Hellmouth, and being a friend of the slayer and all, it was often surprising, even to Xander himself, that he still insisted on adhering to certain habits, especially when they were so often disrupted. Even as a child though, he had known that creating a few moments of normalcy and predictability were the only likely things to keep him calm and in control. It was soothing to repeat patterns he had done a thousand times before. Like when his father would fly off the handle and smack him around a little – which was almost a routine in and of itself – it was exceedingly important that Xander still prepare for sleep at the regular time, brush his teeth, put on his pyjamas (first the pants, then the nightshirt, buttoning from top to bottom), put the chair against the door and brace it underneath the doorknob, and finally get into bed. He would move slowly and methodically through each task, mind completely absorbed in the actions, and somehow, by the end of it, things would start to make sense to him again.
As Xander matured, he became more self-aware of his habits and his reasons for them. He also came to realize that many of his routines were private ones, and enabled him to cope with so often being alone. Never had this been more clear to him then when Willow and Buffy had went off to college, and Xander had been, for all intents and purposes, left to his own devices. Without the constant contact with his surrogate family, Xander had needed to fill in his days, and make them mean something. This meant a strict commitment to a set schedule of work, meals, and sleep; eventually, it lulled Xander into a safe state of complacency, where even the sting of loneliness was rarely felt.
Anya had slipped into Xander’s patterns with surprisingly little difficulty. Pragmatic and goal-oriented as she was, she also seemed to organize her days into distinct allotments of time. She had her own set of rules, many of them developed to make her seem more ‘human’, and while many of these rules seemed arbitrary and irregular, following them made Anya feel more confident about her place in the greater scheme of things. What Anya called her ‘guidelines for living’, Xander dubbed ‘a need for acceptance’, but whatever the title, both modes of thought were essentially designed for the same purpose. Thus the relationship between them had worked, at least, in the beginning. Later it had come to their attention that while on the surface they knew everything about each other, on the inside, they remained untouchable, still unfathomable mysteries to one another.
Saturday mornings had a routine, and on this particular Saturday, because of the chaos of the last few days, Xander felt he needed it more than ever. Someone ringing the buzzer unfortunately kept him from sleeping in as was customary. It took a few moments, but Xander eventually reasoned that this six a.m. wake-up call was probably Giles arriving with the promised blood. Xander wriggled out from Spike’s hold, resolutely not thinking about the fact that a vampire had cuddled with him during the night, and went to let Giles in.
After releasing the security door downstairs, Xander glanced around his apartment, and hastily removed all the clues regarding Spike’s late-night snack. He was pulling on a long-sleeved shirt to hide the bandages on his arm, when there was a polite knocking on the door.
“ Morning Giles,” Xander said, yawning sleepily. “ Sorry to get you up on a weekend.”
“ Not to worry. How is our patient?”
“ Spike?” Xander turned, and contemplated the still body on his bed. As far as Xander could tell, Spike was resting peacefully. “ He’s better, I think. No more frenzied moving around anyway.”
“ Good. That’s good,” Giles said. The response was entirely proper and expected, but Giles still seemed nervous, as though he wasn’t quite sure if he should be glad that Spike was on the mend or not. “ I’ll leave this with you then for when he wakes up.”
“ I was going to make some coffee, you want a cup? Coming all this way, especially when it seems the danger has passed… It’s the least I can do.”
Giles seemed pleased to be invited, and settled himself at the shaky kitchen table. Xander puttered around the small kitchen, pulling out the makings for coffee, and contemplating what he wanted for breakfast. As they waited for the coffee, Giles had a sudden inspiration, and went out to retrieve something from his car.
“ It’s actually not such a bad time to be awake. Not that I plan on making it a habit of course, but it was surprisingly peaceful walking around Sunnydale at this hour. Must be one of the few times where both demons and people alike are ensconced in their homes. Anyway, the bakery was taking out their first batches of the day, and I couldn’t resist the smell of fresh bread. Croissant?”
Giles proffered the box of baked goods, and Xander happily filled his mouth with the flaky and buttery curve of a crescent roll.
“ You know, if you keep doing this, you’re going to put this donut delivery boy out of work,” Xander said, refilling their mugs of coffee.
“ I think donuts are a bit out of my league,” Giles said amiably. “ You know there’s a historical anecdote about coffee and croissants? In the 1600’s, the Turks were advancing into Europe, and they brought with them elements common to their country, such as coffee. The story goes that they would lay siege to a city, and drink coffee in order to keep alert. The Turks frequently used a crescent moon as their identifying symbol, and so the French, as a kind of motivational aide, created a crescent shaped pastry that, when eaten, symbolized victory over their enemies. So, the Turks would boil up their coffee, and frequently leave it behind when they pressed onwards, and the native people would bake and eat their crescent shaped pastries in celebration, and voila: the tradition of croissants and coffee is born.”
“ I heard it was the Hungarians, not the French,” Spike muttered from the bed.
“ Well, the story has no doubt been hyperbolized, so I don’t think it’s possible to state its origins with complete certainty,” Giles said stiffly.
“ Defensive are we?”
“ Pipe down, Blondie. You know, Giles here brought you breakfast too, and I was going to be nice and bring it to you in bed but now I just don’t feel like it.”
“ What? Why not? Come on, broken leg here,” Spike whined piteously.
“ Should have thought of that before, mister,” Xander said with a shrug. He and Giles shared a conspiratorial smirk, and continued their conversation, ignoring the pleas and demands coming from Spike. It was only when the mattress springs started to creak, signalling that Spike was tired of waiting for his meal and was attempting to stand, that Xander got up to prepare the blood. With a sigh, he said: “ Stay down, Spike. I’ll get it for you, annoying being that you are.”
“ Aw, I didn’t know you cared,” Spike said, returning to his prone position gratefully.
“ The longer it takes you to heal, the longer you’ll expect to stay here,” Xander explained. “ So drink up and maybe one day you’ll grow big and strong like a real vampire.”
Spike scowled and swiped the warm mug of pig’s blood from Xander’s hands. Spike was hungry and his still healing body desperately needed blood if it was to continue mending itself, but Spike hesitated before drinking. There remained a faint taste of Xander-blood in his mouth, and he was loath to replace that flavour with essence of pig. Spike’s stomach growled impatiently, and he sighed deeply, before gulping down the bland tasting liquid. No sooner was he finished then he was pegged in the head by a croissant.
“ What was that for?” Spike asked petulantly. Xander approached, grinning at him unrepentantly.
“ Even my paltry human ears could hear your stomach rumbling.”
Xander fetched Spike a second round of blood, and Spike amused himself with dipping his pastry into his mug, lifting up the dripping red-and-white stained bread, and sinking his teeth into it roughly. He mimicked tearing into it as though it were flesh, but neither Giles nor Xander were paying him any attention, so his theatrics were wasted. It only went to further Spike’s sulky mood.
“ I suppose I should be going. I have to set up a few things before I open the shop later,” Giles said, when the conversation began to lull.
“ Sure thing. You need any help this afternoon? I’m free,” Xander said, feeling compelled to offer. He yawned suddenly, the early hour finally catching up to him. Spike’s ears perked up, and he tried to send subliminal messages to Giles, telling him to decline Xander’s offer. The boy worked hard all week and needed to rest – Giles could bloody well go it alone for a change.
“ I shouldn’t think so, though I’ll call if something turns up about last night. Thanks for the coffee.”
Xander followed Giles to the door – all two steps – and shut and locked the door once Giles had departed.
“ How much blood did the watcher bring?” Spike asked, as Xander started cleaning up the small mess in the kitchen.
“ Uh, looks like quite a bit,” Xander said, eyeing the two plastic tubs and trying to estimate how much they held. “ Maybe ten… fifteen mugs?”
“ Such largesse. Almost makes me feel like getting beat-up more often,” Spike said.
“ I told him you were really bad off, and I practically screamed in his ear last night. I think he was just trying to placate the crazy person.”
Spike nodded, and suddenly neither could think of anything else to say. Xander didn’t want to delve any deeper into why he had been so worried about Spike, and Spike didn’t want to remember why he had needed Xander’s help in the first place.
Xander shifted his weight from foot to foot, before deciding he might as well get a head start on his Saturday morning ritual of cartoons, cereal, and comfy clothes – the three C’s of ‘I don’t have to work’ goodness. Admittedly he had already eaten three croissants, but he was still kind-of hungry and the bright red box of Lucky Charms was calling to him. Xander turned on the television, and plonked himself down on the foot of the bed with his cereal.
“ What are you eating?” Spike asked curiously, leaning over Xander’s shoulder to watch the psychedelically coloured marshmallows float to the top of the bowl of milk and cereal. “ Are those marshmallows?”
“ Sure are. They’re magically delicious,” Xander said, never taking his eyes off the screen. While the animated adventures of SpongeBob SquarePants kept Xander riveted, Spike snagged a marshmallow from Xander’s bowl. Xander leaned forward a bit, making the cereal a little harder to reach but otherwise kept still. Spike grinned and poked Xander in the side with one hand, and as Xander pushed closer to Spike, trying to avoid the jab, Spike pilfered another tiny marshmallow.
“ Hey! Get your own,” Xander said, lower lip pouting. Spike felt like kissing him in apology. Fortunately Xander had turned away before Spike could act on the impulse.
Wanting Xander’s blood was one thing – that was a perfectly respectable desire for a vampire to have. Wanting to protect Xander and keep him safe was a little more of a stretch, but still, being a vampire didn’t mean you couldn’t return a favour for a favour. Wanting to kiss Xander however… well, that wasn’t so easily rationalized. In the heat of the moment, perhaps, but now, when all Xander was doing was watching cartoons and messily eating children’s cereal?
Spike’s ponderings were brought up short when Xander wafted a fresh cup of blood under his nose. Xander had also brought with him the cereal box, and after taking a loose handful for himself, he thrust the box at Spike.
“ Do me a favour and don’t let me see what you do with the marshmallows? I’d like to be able to continue to enjoy this cereal in future,” Xander said.
Spike drank until his cup was half emptied, then poured in the cereal to top it up. It was as he was munching contentedly on a blood-soaked purple horseshoe that Spike understood why he wanted to kiss Xander so much.
In two hours, Xander had managed to move from the foot of the bed to the chair next to it. His cartoons were drawing to a close, and were about to be replaced with sports – golf, no less. This was his signal to get up and maybe shower. Xander stood and stretched, his t-shirt lifting to reveal the bare skin of his torso, and he heard Spike make a sort-of gasping sound.
“ Yeah I know,” Xander said, rubbing a circle around the bulge in his otherwise flat stomach. “ I’m really starting to show now.”
Xander thought he would feel more self-conscious baring his stomach to Spike, especially considering the lengths he went to keep his belly hidden from his friends, but strangely enough he was feeling quite comfortable in the vampire’s presence. Maybe it was because he wasn’t trying to pacify or reassure Spike; he wasn’t worried about creating a good impression, which meant he was free to be himself.
Xander took a long, hot shower, and dressed in sweats and another long-sleeved cotton shirt, this one a bright orange. He wasn’t planning on going anywhere and his plans for the day included food, sleep, and as little actual energy expenditure as was possible.
When Xander came out of the bathroom, he found Spike struggling to get out of bed and onto his feet. Spike gingerly put some weight on his injured leg and was rewarded with a sharp jolt of pain, followed by a momentary bit of dizziness. Xander hurried over but Spike waved him off.
“ Want to get cleaned-up; can’t stand the smell of me anymore. Any hot water left?”
“ Probably,” Xander replied, watching as Spike limped towards the bathroom. Somewhere along the line, Xander had stopped paying attention to the injuries Spike’s body sported, but now that Xander’s attention had been re-focused, he could understand Spike’s desire to wash. Spike’s jeans were almost unrecognizable beneath the layer of dirt and dried blood, and Spike’s skin was similarly begrimed, save where Xander had scrubbed at it yesterday. Xander hunted through his meagre supply of clothes and found another pair of sweats and a black t-shirt. Both would be too large for Spike, but it was the best Xander had to offer.
Xander knocked on the bathroom door, but when he got no answer, he opened the door anyway, prepared to leave the bundle of clothes where Spike would be sure to find them. Xander was tempted to sneak a look at the other occupant of the bathroom - who was still blithely showering behind the occluding plastic of the shower curtain - and was surprised by the strength of that compulsion. Xander resisted, and exited the bathroom, giving Spike his privacy.
It wasn’t the first time Xander had noticed Spike’s aesthetic appeal. In fact, for awhile he had been obsessed with cataloguing all the ways in which he and the vampire were different, with the illogical thought that if he figured out what made Spike so alluring, Xander could copy it and benefit as well. It was envy, pure and simple, that usually motivated Xander’s appraisals. Maybe it wasn’t that surprising to want a look at Spike’s… assets. It was always possible that in this one area, Xander measured up to the competition, and wouldn’t that be good for the ego? Happy with this justification for his brief foray into voyeurism, Xander started lunch preparations.
“ Whoa, whoa, whoa. I admit there’s nothing much on the telly, but does that really mean we have to watch something called ‘The Princess Bride’?”
“ One: this movie is a classic. Two: you don’t have to watch anything because you can always leave,” Xander pointed out.
Spike rolled his eyes, but made no attempt to get up. He was lying on his stomach on the bed, his head propped up on his crossed arms, and facing in the direction of the TV. Xander was settling back into his chair, a blanket tucked around him, as the movie came on. Halfway through, Spike was appalled to find himself snickering. By the end of the movie, he was wondering if he could convince Xander to watch it again.
“ I don’t know why, but whenever I watch Vizzini, I think of Giles. It would kill me if Giles ever said ‘inconceivable’, I just know it,” Xander said.
“ Well, that’s reason enough for me to get him to say it,” Spike returned.
“ Funny,” Xander said sarcastically, before a huge yawn split his face. “ I’m going to take a nap; try to amuse yourself in non-destructive ways, okay?”
Spike made a grunting noise that Xander took as agreement. Xander moved onto the bed, shoved Spike’s socked feet off his pillow, and pulled the blankets over himself. Sharing a bed with Spike was rapidly becoming so familiar that Xander barely registered it anymore. He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but what he did know was that he slept better when Spike was there, so he decided to just go with it.
Spike flipped himself around so that he and the dozing Xander were face to face. Sharing a bed with Xander was rapidly becoming so familiar that Spike didn’t even stop to consider it anymore. He wasn’t sure if that was a good thing or a bad thing, but what he did know was that he never felt more peaceful than when he was listening to Xander’s soft snores and beating heart, so he decided to just go with it.
Not feeling tired enough to sleep, Spike studied Xander’s features, noting certain attributes he hadn’t appreciated before. Like the long, dark, and slightly curling lashes that framed his eyes and the slight dimple in his right cheek. He was a picture of youth, and Spike was amazed that so much had happened to the man in the paltry space of a couple of decades. The boy was made of pretty tough stuff, even if Spike gave him a hard time about being the most inept member of the group. Not that he looked very tough at the moment – Xander looked soft, and warm, and vulnerable. The kind-of person vampires typically couldn’t resist trying to corrupt and ruin; the kind-of person this particular vampire wanted to cuddle up to and shield from the dangers of the world.
“ What the Hell am I getting into with you?” Spike asked out loud. He traced a finger down the side of Xander’s face, before hefting himself out of bed, and limping to the chair. He placed a cigarette between his lips but didn’t light it, and turned on the television with the toes of his left foot. When the screen flared to life, Spike let his mind drift.
Pizza. Xander smelled pizza, which was unusual only in that he was still lying in bed and hadn’t gotten around to preparing dinner. He rubbed at his eyes, then his stomach, and came to the unlikely conclusion that Spike had put a frozen pizza in the oven.
“ Hey, what do you drink?” Spike asked, standing in front of the refrigerator.
“ With pizza. You have some coffee left, you want that?”
Xander shook his head, but he remained stuck in Bizarro world. He managed to stutter: “ Not coffee. Water’s fine, or juice.”
Spike nodded once, poured some orange juice, and brought it over to Xander. Xander continued to stare in complete confusion at Spike, who began to feel slightly nervous beneath the gaze.
“ What?” Spike snapped.
“ What what?” Xander replied nonsensically.
“ Why are you bleeding staring at me?”
“ Sorry. Just a little surprised,” Xander said quietly.
“ You looked right knackered. Thought I’d do it for you,” said Spike just as quietly. Xander sipped carefully at his drink, and studiously avoided comment. Spike levered the pizza out of the oven at the correct time, and rummaged in the kitchen drawers looking for a knife. Xander got up to help him, and soon they were both settled at the table with their respective meals.
“ Yeah, so…”
“ You going out tonight?” Spike asked eventually.
“ Nah. This is my day to do absolutely nothing. Cartoons and cereal: check. Watch a movie I’ve seen a hundred times: check. Eat nothing that takes longer than five minutes to prepare: check. Now it’s time for sprawling in my chair with a book. And I just realized how incredibly boring that all sounds.”
“ It’s alright. Everyone needs a day like that,” Spike said automatically. Did he actually just say that? Could he possibly sound like more of a ponce? Where was the infamous sardonic sense of humour? In desperation, Spike blurted out: “ Since when can you read?”
“ Ooh, stop; pull back the claws, baby, because I can’t take such verbal abuse,” Xander teased.
“Shut-up wanker,” Spike said.
Xander was still chuckling as he found his discarded novel from earlier, and flipped through the pages trying to find where he had last left off. Spike didn’t know what to do with himself, and he started pacing the small apartment, picking up random objects and examining them for a moment, before moving on to the next distraction. He couldn’t really get a fix on Xander’s personality. There were a few clues in the apartment, but even these were problematic. The pregnancy magazines mixed in with comic books; the neat and orderly paraphernalia from Xander’s work sitting next to a battered chair and a cracked cereal bowl. Was the quiet and conservative Xander he had spent the day with the real Xander, or just another side that Spike had never been privy to before?
Gradually Spike’s gaze drifted to the man in question, and he took in the whole picture before focusing on the book, which judging from the intent expression on Xander’s face was quite absorbing.
“ What are you reading?” Spike asked. Xander had the paperback cupped in his hands, and it was impossible to see the title.
“ Brave new world,” Xander mumbled, not lifting his head.
“ Huxley?” Spike asked, surprise written all over his face.
“ I’ve read that,” Spike said.
“ Really?” Xander asked as his attention was finally gained. “ What did you think?”
“ It was… disquieting,” Spike said eventually. Spike grabbed a seat from the kitchen and set it across from Xander, sitting on it backwards with his forearms resting on the chair back.
“ It’s creepy alright. Mostly because it seems possible,” Xander said.
Spike nodded, but there didn’t seem to be much else to say, and Xander eventually turned back to his book. It wasn’t long before Spike started to fidget again.
“ So when are you leaving?” Xander asked, too distracted with Spike’s constant little movements to concentrate.
“ I’m going somewhere?”
“ Well, the sun’s gone down, and you don’t need to be stuck in bed anymore. I figured you’d be itching to get out of here and kill something.”
“ Look who thinks he has me all figured out,” Spike said. “ Maybe I want to stay here. Read a book of my own.”
Xander blinked. “ You want to stay here, with me, in a tiny apartment, when I’ve already admitted that I’m about as exciting as a granola bar at Halloween? Wait; is this about that Dent D’Or guy? Think he’ll try to get you again?”
Unwittingly, Xander had just given Spike the perfect excuse to extend his stay in the apartment, and it even had the merit of being partially true. “ Yeah, don’t feel up to wandering the streets, at least, not until I’m completely back to being my big, bad self. Think I’ll lay low here for a bit.”
“ Whatever,” Xander said.
Not quite the reaction Spike was hoping for, but at least Xander hadn’t decided to kick him out. Time enough later to make himself indispensable.
“ Got anything I can read?” Spike asked.
“ Umm, there’s a box under the bed with a few books.” Spike rooted around and returned triumphantly with a half dozen dog-eared paperbacks. “ Try the Stanislaw Lem stuff; ‘The Futurological Congress’ is good.”
Spike shrugged indifferently, and did as suggested. The apartment was quiet, though outside the sounds of civilisation – the rumble of a car engine, the far off wail of a police siren, the rattle of metal garbage cans on the sidewalk – could still be heard. Every now and then, either Xander or Spike would shift positions, and the noise seemed loud because of the stillness. Xander had one hand resting against his abdomen, while the other held his book open. He was remarkably comfortable and content - one of those rare moments where it felt like everything was going according to plan. When the words in his book began to blur and run together, Xander decided to call it quits for the night. He watched Spike from beneath his partially lidded eyes. Spike had opted to lie on the floor on his back, his feet crossed at the ankle and his head resting on a pillow. It looked spectacularly uncomfortable, but considering that Spike frequently slept in places made entirely of damp stone, a threadbare carpet was probably not so awful.
“ You should go to bed,” Spike said, looking over the edge of his book. Xander was surprised to have been caught looking, and it made him blush.
“ Er, right. Uh… are you staying all night?” Xander asked.
“ Was planning on it. Haven’t finished my book or my blood yet.”
Xander tried to keep some of his enthusiasm from showing as he agreed to Spike’s idea. Really, it could have been anyone offering to stay, and Xander would have felt just as happy, or so he tried to tell himself. He just didn’t like being alone, that was all. And any company was better than no company at all, right?
Thoughts were still circling in Xander’s head as he climbed into bed, and he didn’t notice when he left space for another person to climb in beside him. Gradually, he began to drift into a fitful sleep. When Spike slid under the blankets and pressed up against his back, Xander’s eyes opened briefly, but soon shut again. He shifted until he was comfortably resting against Spike’s body and felt a strong arm wrap around his middle. That was all it took for Xander to fall into a deep and true slumber.
The following day started peacefully enough, with Spike and Xander being almost considerate of each other. Spike completed his book, and they talked about it while they ate a quick breakfast: a cheese omelette for Xander, and an omelette ‘surprise’ for Spike. Spike took one look at the pinkish omelette and wasn’t all that surprised by the added ingredient, but he appreciated the gesture.
Xander got showered and changed, and was strapping on his utility belt when Spike realized that Xander was planning on going out.
“ Where are you off to? It’s not even noon.”
“ I’m supposed to help out at a bazaar today. My boss’s kid’s school is having some kind-of fundraiser and I offered to set up some tables and stuff.”
“ You’re not even getting paid for working on your day off? Have I taught you nothing?” Spike was aghast at the very thought of volunteering.
“ It’s for a good cause,” Xander said with a shrug. “ Anyway, I have to go. Don’t want to be late. If anyone calls, can you tell them where I am? Or else let the machine pick it up, yeah?”
Xander straightened out a crumpled flyer that had the school’s address and phone number on it, and placed it on the counter, before hustling out the door. Spike pouted at being stranded in the boring apartment, and considered breaking something of Xander’s. After looking around, however, he decided that everything was either worthless or trashed already, so that plan was out.
“ Wait a minute, who says I have to stay here? I can go anywhere I want, do anything I want. I’m still a vampire, the killer of two slayers, and Master to nobody,” Spike said loudly.
He pulled his boots on roughly, and jerked his duster into place. There were hundreds of spots where a vampire could find mischief, even during the day. Plenty of ways to cause disorder and mayhem should he so want to, and it wouldn’t be too hard to avoid Dent D’Or, not if he was careful. And if he somehow ended up at the school where Xander was working, well then, that was fine too. Because he was Spike. And Spike did exactly what he wanted.
Twenty minutes later, Spike was forced to return to the apartment and retrieve the flyer when he couldn’t remember the school’s address.
“ Xander, would you mind helping unload a few boxes for the garage sale?”
Xander finished screwing together the final metal collapsible table for the bake-sale and headed over to the other side of the gymnasium where the rummage sale was taking place. Box after box of useless stuff was brought in, and the wares were haphazardly arranged on the tables, each with a bright yellow sticker indicating the price. Xander wearily lugged the last of the boxes inside, and was roped into helping bring in the few bits of furniture that people had donated to the sale. By the time he was finished his chore, his back was hurting, and his ankles and feet were swollen. He bought some overpriced, under-sugared, lemonade from a freckle faced ten-year-old, and leaned up against the wall for a break.
“ Xander, got a minute?” Xander visibly winced at the sound of his name, before pasting on a fake smile, and turning to face his boss. “ Really appreciate you taking the time to help out today. Now I realize it’s Sunday, and you’d probably like to get back to whatever it is you do on your days off, but I wonder if you could run the popcorn booth for a bit? The kids do all the selling; you just have to make the popcorn. What do you say? All the popcorn you can eat, and I promise I’ll remember that I owe you in future. You know if you need the afternoon off or something.”
“ Sure,” Xander said with a shrug. “ I didn’t have any plans for today.” ‘Other than getting some sleep and getting off my feet so I can withstand another work week,’ Xander said to himself grumpily.
The popcorn machine was remarkably easy to work, despite its decrepit appearance. Two children were assigned to work the booth, each pair for one hour, and then a new pair was expected to take over. The kids were always brimming with enthusiasm when they started, but they would quickly become bored. Xander would start pulling faces at them, and making up silly voices to keep them entertained. He’d tell them he wasn’t going to let them sell any popcorn because he wanted it all to himself, and they would squeal and tell him that wasn’t allowed. Xander was actually having a pretty good time and was surprised to discover he had whiled away four hours and that the Bazaar was over.
Xander waved goodbye to his boss, and gathered up his things for the walk home. As he was coming down one of the hallways, a hand shot out and grabbed at his elbow. He let out a very undignified yelp, and began fighting off whatever had grabbed him.
“ Calm down, Harris, you’ll give yourself a nosebleed,” Spike said coolly.
“ You!” Xander hissed, shoving at the vampire. “ You scared five years off my life.” Xander felt his heartbeat slowly return to normal, but continued to glare.
“ Need your help,” Spike said, bouncing on his heels. “ It’s an emergency.”
“ An emergency?” Xander asked, instantly becoming serious. “ Is somebody hurt?”
“ Just hurry up, will you? Don’t want to leave her alone too long,” Spike said, as he began striding away quickly. Xander hurried to catch him.
“ Who is she? Is it something Hellmouthy?”
“ You ask too many questions.”
Xander started to get even more anxious as Spike continued to avoid answering any queries. Spike looked to be in high spirits, but that could mean that he was anticipating a whole lot of violence. When Xander pushed open the front doors of the elementary school, and stepped out into the early night, he was prepared for anything. He wasn’t ready for nothing, however.
“ What’s going on Spike?” Xander asked, seeing nothing at all that was worthy of his attention.
“ She’s beautiful, yeah?” Spike said, jumping down the few stone steps and flopping onto a dark blue couch that was sitting at the curb.
“ You’re emergency is a couch?” Xander asked incredulously. “ Jesus, you had me thinking we were on the verge of another apocalypse.”
“ They didn’t know what to do with it when it didn’t sell so I took it off their hands for five bucks. I need your help to carry it.”
Xander felt very much like banging his head against the brickwork of the school. How did Spike always manage to come up with these harebrained schemes? And why did he always seem to think that Xander was the perfect person to help him execute them?
“ You expect us to carry a couch through the dark, vampire/demon-infested streets, with you still damn near cripple and me… Not to mention there’s a vampire just waiting for another chance to take you down.”
“ Nah. I mean, Dent D’Or definitely would like me gone, but I doubt I’m his top priority. I was probably just unlucky that night they came across us. But you could be right about the whole carrying thing.” Spike remained sprawled out proprietarily over his impulse buy, and pondered how to move the thing.
A slightly beat up truck pulled up to the curb at that moment, and Xander lifted his hand to shield his eyes from the glare of the powerful headlights.
“ Xander? What are you still doing here?” His boss, Terry, stuck his head out of the window and raised an eyebrow at the blond on the couch in the middle of the sidewalk.
“ My friend here bought a couch, and he wants me to help move it,” Xander eventually admitted.
“ Well, put it in the back here, and I’ll give you both a lift. The wife is still cleaning up inside.”
“ Thanks Terry,” Xander said. Spike was feeling pretty pleased with himself when the piece of furniture was easily loaded into the truck bed, and he and Xander were squished into the front seat. In no time, they were pulling up in front of Xander’s apartment block, and before the truck was fully stopped, Spike was out the door, eager to get at his prize. Xander sighed.
“ This is your place, ain’t it?” Terry asked.
“ Yeah,” Xander replied softly.
“ Then how come your friend is bringing a couch here? He have an apartment in the building too?”
“ Not exactly. He’s crashing at my place for a few days.”
Terry started laughing, “ You are so screwed.”
Xander had been resting his eyes, but he opened them to stare at his boss. “ What do you mean?”
“ Tell me, does this friend have food at your house?”
Xander thought of the animal blood carefully stored in his refrigerator.
“ Yeah, he does.”
“ And clothes? What about a toothbrush?” Spike’s clothes were still in Xander’s laundry hamper, and though Spike hadn’t brought a toothbrush, he had used Xander’s, which meant Xander had had to buy himself a new one. Xander nodded a morose yes to his boss, starting to understand where this line of questioning was going.
“ And now he’s bought himself a couch. I hate to be the one to break it to you, but I think your friend is making this arrangement permanent.”
Terry was grinning at Xander’s predicament, and Xander was kicking himself for not recognizing the signs sooner. (He was, after all, no stranger to mooching either). After a dull thank you to his boss for the ride home, Xander climbed out of the vehicle. Spike had levered the couch down onto the sidewalk all by himself, and was gleefully bouncing on the cushions, testing the springs. An overzealous jump sent Spike tumbling onto the cement; Spike glared at the couch as though the inanimate object was to blame and began beating up on a pillow.
Xander shook his head in disbelief, grateful that his boss had driven away by this point. Together they lifted the couch inside the apartment complex, and into the elevator. They wrestled the couch through the front door, and wedged it between the bed and the TV set. There was almost no room to move anymore, but Spike didn’t seem to see this as a problem. After they fixed themselves something for dinner, they both relaxed on the couch to watch some TV, and Xander had to admit it was pretty comfortable.
“ Ahh,” Spike said, taking a long sip of pig’s blood. “ Home sweet home, eh?”
It was official then, Xander thought. Somehow, without really meaning to, Xander had gotten himself an incredibly strange and erratic chipped vampire as a roommate.
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